Liberty University’s new membership in the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia promises to be mutually beneficial.
The Bedford, Va.-based council with 27 private, fully-accredited member institutions lobbies for state policies and funding that will benefit all private colleges, as well as the pocketbooks of students who attend them.
“The advantage for us is that the Council for Independent Colleges has long been looked at in Richmond with the General Assembly as the most prominent voice on behalf of private colleges in Virginia,” said Boyd Rist, LU provost and vice president of academic affairs.
LU had been asked to join the CICV in the past, but one issue that spurred the university to become a member now is the status of Virginia Tuition Assistance Grants (VTAG).
“It’s very bleak times in the Commonwealth,” said Robert Lambeth Jr., president of the CICV.
With state revenues down, some private colleges fear VTAG funding cuts.
“We’re joining the CICV to fight to protect those Tuition Assistance Grants on behalf of our students because we know how important they are to all of our Virginia students,” said LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr.
The VTAG currently offers $3,200 to undergraduate students and $1,900 to graduate students who attend private colleges statewide. About 20,000 young people in the Commonwealth use these grants, amounting to about $60 million per year. Of that amount, Liberty University students receive a substantial portion — $10 million.
As the largest private university in the state, Falwell believes that LU can make a great impact with the CICV.
“I think the fact that we’re a member will help CICV make more progress in their lobbying efforts in Richmond. Liberty is known as a conservative school, so I think it will help with the conservative legislators and politicians when they see that Liberty is a member,” said Falwell.
The Chancellor spoke before a meeting of the council in Lynchburg earlier this week, as did distinguished politicians such as Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell, U.S. Rep. 6th district Bob Goodlatte and state Sen. Steve Newman.
“The state schools in Virginia receive substantially more support from government than do the private schools. We believe that state support for private schools is a better bargain for the taxpayer because we educate students with private money, and it requires less contribution from the taxpayers,” Falwell said.